Tag Archives: hospice

I guess I’m still healing myself

Something bigger than me happened at work the other day.

I was visiting the home of an elderly man who had fallen.  I was there to monitor a healing infection and tend to his wounds. He was a frail, gentle man who told me he was ready for his life to be over. Not suicidal…the guy is in his mid 90s and not feeling well at all. It’s just time. His doting wife is quite a bit younger and not ready for him to give up just yet. This happens all the time. It’s not easy to face this season of life, even though we all know it’s coming for each and every one of us.

So, I’m at his house for the second time this week. His infection has gotten worse. I tell them he will probably  need to go back to the hospital. He shakes his head. His wife tells me it will kill him to go back, that he just wants to stay home. So, I start the conversation of hospice. Never an easy conversation to have. I keep in mind my mother, who just traveled this journey with her husband, as I look into this woman’s eyes. As much as she’s not ready for him to go, she knows this is what he needs. She can see it’s time. I put my hand on her shoulder as we speak, hoping to channel some peace into her aching soul.

I assist the man to his bed. He’s sitting on the side so I can change his bandages. He asks me, “So I don’t have to go back to the hospital?”No”, I reply. “You can stay home from here on out and we will send in a team of nurses who specialize in keeping you comfortable. They will help take care of you so your wife doesn’t have to work so hard and you can stay home“. He smiles and lets out the biggest sigh of relief.  He says, “My pastor is coming today. I’m going to ask him to talk to God for me.” I’m on my knees as I speak to him, as I’m changing a bandage on his leg. It’s a draining wound, and some traveled down to his feet. I took a gauze sponge and wiped his feet clean. I look up at him and say, “I’m sure he’ll talk to God for you. But you can talk to God yourself. And I can, too. I’ll talk to God for you and ask him to ease your suffering… and hers”, as I gesture to his wife.  He smiled down at me, as I tended to his wounds. “You’re an angel. I can see the wings growing out of there” and he gestures to behind my shoulder. He’s looking at it like he can actually see them there. He’s adorable. I’m such a sucker for these 90 year olds. “You’re an angel, just like she is“, and he looks over at his wife, who is leaning against the wall, looking away in her grief. She would move mountains for this man. But, mountains weren’t meant to be moved, I guess. He puts his hands on my shoulders, then cups my face in them, leans down and softly presses his forehead on mine. Almost like he was blessing me. As I washed his feet. Can you see it now? Can you see how this is something bigger than me?

I finish my work and tuck him into bed. I arranged for hospice to take over, so I knew this would probably be our last interaction. His wife walked me to the door. I tried to give her some comforting words, but I don’t think there really is such a thing, not during a time like this. She thanked me for my compassion and I went on my way. As sad as that scenario is, I felt good about it. I felt I healed them. Not physically, of course. There is no physical healing left in the world for that man. But spiritually, I think I did a decent job. I wondered why it was so easy for me to heal other people’s souls, and so difficult to heal my own. I haven’t felt like I’ve been healing at all, lately.  I thought of him calling me an angel. It reminded me of my angels, the one’s I pray to, the one’s I meditate to, the one’s I think of when I’m feeling broken. One thought led to another, and I thought of all the internal struggles I’ve been enduring recently, and I realized they are easing. I’ve been putting in my work, my gardening.  I’ve noticed the difficulty in healing myself and realized I had been slacking off on my work. The work I do on my own soul to put the pieces back together. So, I put some work in, and soon realized I’m bouncing back from emotional heartache a lot quicker than I used to. Pieces are starting to be put together again. So, I guess I’m still healing myself, after all…

Two houses later, I happen upon a patient with a cute little dog. He said it was a miniature toy schnauzer. This dog was SO in to me! She was standing on her hind legs, reaching up to me, begging for affection. I spent a few minutes stroking her head, her eyes steadily gazing into mine. She reminded me of this therapy dog I used to know, Frank. I had an emotionally intimate relationship with Frank. I swear, I think I can feel love from dogs easier than I can feel love from people. So, I felt an instant connection to this dog. I ask the patient what her name is, as I continue gazing into her eyes, feeling peaceful. He smiles at me and replies, “Angel”.

 

 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Aug. 12/17

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

An interesting closeness

It’s interesting how close you can get to someone when they’re dying.  In the 13 years I’ve been nursing, I’ve spent my fair share of time keeping people company as they transition to the next chapter. In the hospital, I’d come to know them by listening to their families reminisce. I always told the children, “your dedication now is a testament to how good your parents were“, which always made them smile…and often cry. In the home setting it was better. I could see their decorating style, look at family photos, know what type of car they drove…it was more personal. I got to know them on a closer level. I always enjoyed looking at the photos the most. Obviously, they looked completely different from the person lying in the bed next to me. Healthy skin, smiles, holding grandchildren, serving their country, dancing…it all paints a picture of how they lived and how they loved.

I’ve spent most of the last week at my stepfather’s bedside, letting my mom get some rest. I come over every evening after work and stay till around midnight, when the aide she finally let us arrange arrives. I’ve never really been that close to him. Not that I didn’t like him or anything…we just never bonded. He’s kind of an introvert and tended to avoid social family gatherings. He moved here so she could be near her family when the time came for him to move on. He didn’t want her to grow old all alone, halfway across the country from her kids… where she’s been since I was 9. He’s been chronically ill since I met him. I always felt sort of bad for my mom, not being able to go out and do things…travel, make friends, whatever… ever since they moved here.  I thought she was tied down by him, and I thought that was a shitty deal for her. At the same time, I figured she knew what she was getting in to with him, so sort of washed my hands of it. This past week, though…I got to know him. No, we didn’t have any heart to heart conversations. He’s well past having that ability. It’s hard to understand much of what he says now. I got to know him by watching my mom.

My mom spent the past 10 years slowly transitioning into his caregiver, and it kicked into high gear last month when he fell and broke his hip. The cancer had made his bones so brittle…that was the beginning of the end. He came home in a hospital bed and has been lying in it, in the middle of the living room, ever since…with my mom doting on him. For the first 6 weeks or so, she wouldn’t let us hire any help for him (other than to use the daily aide the hospice provides for an hour). She was devoted. She managed his medications. She re positioned him. She helped him with his urinal. She fed him. As he began to progress through this process, his needs became more frequent. He was ringing the bell for her every half hour during the night. “Please, Mom…let me hire some help”, I pleaded. She was exhausted, but refused. We set up a cot next to his bed so she could lie with him during the night. So, instead of ringing the bell every half hour, he reached over and patted her on the head. She was happy with that. Seeing the two of them, lying side by side in that living room, holding hands through the rails of the hospital bed…that’s when it clicked. God, how could I have not seen this all these years? She doesn’t have a shitty deal at all. She’s one of the lucky ones…she has true love. Something I’ve struggled my entire life to believe even exists, and it’s been right here all along.

His journey is so close to ending. He’s being visited by relatives already on the other side. Or hallucinating. One never knows. Yesterday, as my mom napped, I sat on the side of his bed, holding his hand as he processed whatever crazy shit he was seeing in the corner of the room. I looked at him and thought about how I never know if this is going to be the last time I see him awake or not, and I know my mom must feel that feeling in a much more painful way. I realized I’d never acknowledged his act of love for my mom…moving out here for her. I rubbed his hand. “Hey, Larry. I never did thank you for bringing my mom back here to us. Thank you.” My eyes were stinging, and I swallowed hard to keep from crying. He looked at me, and just gave a slight nod. I wondered if he knew how I resented her all those years for not being here. I never would have been able to let all that go, to create this budding new relationship with her this past year, if he hadn’t moved her here. He rubbed my hand. I think he knew enough.

My heart aches for what my mom is going through. I hate that I used to think her life would be so much easier once she didn’t have to take care of him.

I once was blind, but now I see…

 

 

 

 

This post was written in response to Linda G Hill’s Stream of Social Consciousness Saturday prompt

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS May 6/17

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Today’s sermon

My stepfather is dying. He’s on his third round of cancer. I can’t believe he even beat it the first two times, which is a testament to his tough, stubborn, ornery character.

I can’t say I’m particularly close to him. I like him enough, but he’s introverted and suffers from depression. He’s a Vietnam veteran, and  I can’t even begin to imagine what he’s been through…what type of things have formed his personality and views on life. I can say, without a doubt…he loves my mother. He moved her here around 8 years ago, or so. He knew he wouldn’t last forever, and wanted her to be around her kids so she wouldn’t have to be alone and struggling. He’s lasted longer than he thought he would, so has kind of just been existing here, blending into the scenery.

He fell around 6 weeks ago, and due to the metastatic tumor in his hip, shattered his pelvis. He’s been home on hospice, in a hospital bed, ever since. My mom is exhausted. She’s his 24 hour caregiver, other than the daily hospice aide who bathes him. I try to talk her into hiring help to give her a break, but she’s devoted. All these years of them being married, and I never noticed the love. I see it now, so clearly. Like a veil has been lifted. I think my vision was blurred because of the resentment I’d held on to, regarding me and my mom’s history. We’ve grown so close during these last 6 weeks, and I’m seeing her from a different perspective now. I am finally at peace with her.

This morning, just as I’m pulling in to church, my mom calls asking for my help. My stepfather wanted to get out of bed and she needed help getting him back in, as his hospice aide couldn’t stay. (He requires a hoyer lift). She didn’t want to tell him he couldn’t get up, as he hasn’t been able to tolerate it lately. I was really looking forward to church today. I had a feeling it was going to be a good sermon. Of course, I was happy to turn around and miss it. He’s getting so close, I’m not sure how many more chances he’ll have to sit in the sun with my mom.

I arrive, and he’s sipping coffee and eating cheese. It’s beautiful out, and the warm sun is shining on him as he looks at his garden. I haven’t seen him out of his hospital bed in over a month. I say to him, “Well, well, well. Look at what we’ve got here”, smiling.  He calmly states, “What can I say? When you’ve got it, you’ve got it…and I’ve got it”. His voice is nothing but a gravelly whisper, but yeah…he’s still got it. We sit for around 45 minutes…a good 30 minutes longer than he’s ever tolerated being in the chair for, ever since this whole hospice thing started. My mom asks him how he’s doing, sitting up for so long,  as her sole purpose in life right now is to make him comfortable. In his classic Vietnam vet style, he mutters, “tough as nails”. We then carried him back to bed.

I didn’t miss today’s sermon, after all…

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail